Archive for the ‘The Dictionary Project’ Category

Day 1 – The Dictionary Project

31 Jul

Starting a new habit is difficult.

On the 24th, I committed to a new project – read the dictionary and internalize as much as possible… 1 page a day.

Of course, now it’s already the 31st and so far I have only read a single page – the first night of my project. I was sick, and the bug bounced around the family, work is busy and stressful, etc, etc, etc – in short, life seems adept at discovering how to get in the way, but that’s how it usually goes right?

And while my goal is only 1 page per day, I knew it was going to take awhile to get to that point – and so far it looks like 1 page per week (hey, I’m interval training! I’ll build up to 1 page per day.)

I’m going to read my second page tonight though, so I am moving forward and that’s important. The positive side of spending a week, thinking about a single page of the dictionary is that page is now firmly planted within my noodle for posterity. I’ve always been pretty good at sponging up information and that is essentially what this project is going to be about, memorizing one page per day. I have no idea how many pages will actually stick – but that will be part of the fun.

Again, I’m only really interested in words I don’t know, words that I didn’t know correctly, words with interesting details that I was unaware of.

So, without further adieu, or stalling on my part, here is what I learned on day 1 – 7 days ago:

Aardvark thru Abalone

Aardvark – Everyone knows what an aardvark is so I won’t state the obvious points regarding long sticky tongue or sharp frontal claws, but did you know that aardvark means ‘Earth Pig’? Or that the other local South African name for these little critters is Ant Bear? Aardvark was also a two-fer as I learned a second new word in this definition: Edentate – which describes an animal with no, or very few, teeth. Now, most of my dictionaries specifically mention that edentate refers to South American animals, but my Collier dictionary claims the aardvark is one, so…

Aardwolf – Another South African animal, the aardwolf – or (you guessed it!) Earth Wolf – looks like a small hyena. Interestingly, they also live on a diet that largely consists of bugs – although they do have teeth (as any self respecting wolf would…)

Aba - A course cloth made out of either goat or camel hair or the sleeveless outer-garment made from this cloth. Often striped and originating in the Mid-East.

Abac – another two-fer, this is also known as a nomograph. I got to use this one at work this week! It is the name of a specific type of chart that connects several lines of data but can also be used to mean any graphical representation of numerical relationships

Aback – Yes, as in “I was taken aback by his appearance at the show.” But what I didn’t know is, this originated as a nautical term and referred to a wind hitting the front (prow) of the ship and pushing the sails ‘aback of the mast’. It could also refer to any sails that are physically hung behind the mast apparently.

Abacus – Everyone knows what an abacas is as a reference to that bead studded arachic calculator every public school has one of (and they like to parade it around occasionally to remind all the kids how badly ‘children used to have it’), but an abacus is also the flat piece of stone found at the top of a column supporting the Architrave (or support beam – last two-fer today)

Abaddon -I believe this was Hebrew in origin. Abaddon refers to a particular portion of hell – or the devil that rules there. By extension, also refers to The Devil as well.

Abaft – Another nautical term (I love learning new nautical terms – it helps on Talk Like a Pirate Day). This is essentially the opposite of Aback and refers to a point on the ship that is closer to the stern than any other – again, used in reference to the direction of the wind more often than not.

Abalone – an ear shaped mollusc shell. Prized for its richly coloured pearls – was often used as decoration in many cultures.

That’s it!

And no, I’m not copying this out of the dictionary. Part of this project is about only reading the dictionary page once. After that it’s all memory work.

I’ll let you know what I find interesting on page 2 in a couple of days!


The Dictionary Project

24 Jul

I am a Word Geek. I assume most writers likely are too; although I don’t yet know any writers outside the blogging world to ask.

What is a word geek exactly? Well, if you want to get technical, a Word Geek would be a Logophile; ‘Logos’ meaning ‘word’ or ‘reason’ and ‘-philia’ originally meant ‘love’ but in modern usage translates to something much more akin to  ‘geek’.

And I know that isn’t much of a description so far, so here’s something better: I love words. I love the nuance of words. I love knowing just the right word for the moment. I love the discovery of a new word, or another facet of a familiar one. I love reading words I don’t know. I love sudoku.

This is a Word Geek! You may think that last one is unrelated, but I would argue against it. You see, sudoku, while numeric based, is really a game of patterns and placement – so to, are words. If it makes you feel more comfortable with the connection, swap out the numbers 1 through 9 and replace them with A through I.

I don’t congregate with other Logophiles, but when I read, I do keep a blank sheet of paper, folded up, alongside my bookmark (or use it as my bookmark) so I can write down new words I encounter.

And now I have a new project.  I have had a crazy idea stewing in my subconscious for years, occasionally bubbling into my thoughts – only to be pushed back down again as unmanageable and outrageous. But, as I age and better understand myself, I’ve become aware that: A. I love crazy unmanageable ideas, situations and encounters and tend to perform well the more stressful the situation B. If the same thought, wish or desire keeps occurring to you, over a long period of time – you should embrace it!

So my new project is this: Read the dictionary.

… and not as in: a casual perusal. But rather: to digest and understand; to broaden my vocabulary and grasp of meaning; to study and learn.

I will attempt to consume 1 page per day, although I expect to read less in the beginning.  I have a number of dictionaries (as a Word Geek, Dictionaries are among the items I enjoy collecting) but there are 3 I tend to use the most and my goal is to read my daily page from each. These three dictionaries are:

  • Gage Canadian Dictionary – published in the 90′s
  • Collins English Dictionary – published in the 80′s
  • The New Century Dictionary – published by Collier in 3 volumes in the 40′s

Of course, these 3 dictionaries do not contain quite the same word count, so my definition of a page will be somewhat loose. Regardless, I will read 1 page a day, all entries from all 3 dictionaries (this is a minimum – I may reference other sources) and I will be recording anything that appears of interest to me. Words of interest will primarily be:

  • New words
  • Known words with a previously unknown meaning

Reading the dictionary…

…A simple thing to say – deceptively straightforward to write.

And I, before beginning, predict: Elephantine to accomplish.

Wish me luck!